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When you are injured in any type of motor vehicle accident, every detail of the events leading up to the accident can be extremely important in recovering compensation for your injuries. Most people understand the necessity determining fault, at least as far as insurance companies and claims are concerned, but when injuries are part of the equation, the process can become even more complicated.
What Is Fault?
In Illinois, as in just about everywhere else, a determination of fault assigns responsibility for causing an accident. Fault may lie solely with one party, or it may be shared among multiple parties, including other drivers, pedestrians, and even automakers and parts manufacturers. When one driver clearly makes a mistake which leads to a crash, assigning fault is fairly easy. In other cases, multiple mistakes by several drivers, combined with road and weather conditions and other variables beyond anyone’s control can create difficulty in determining who should be paying for what.
Consider a scenario in which you are driving to work while listening to the radio and drinking coffee. You reach down to change the station, briefly taking your eyes off the road. As your attention is diverted, you hit a pothole that causes your coffee to splash onto your jacket, causing an extra moment or two of distraction. So far, you have done nothing illegal. In front of you, another driver is sending a text message—in violation of state law—and inadvertently touches the brakes, slowing quickly. By the time your eyes return to the road, it is too late to avoid a collision, despite your efforts to swerve and miss the other car. In the moment, of course, there is no way for you to know that the other driver was texting, but given all the factors, who should be found at fault for the accident?
If this were a real situation under consideration by a jury, the answer could very well be that you both were at fault to an extent. You were distracted and rear-ended the car in front you, but the other driver was breaking the law by sending a text message and was also, therefore, distracted. By breaking the law, the other driver created a presumption of negligence per se, which means that he or she could be assumed to have some responsibility for causing the accident as the result of illegal activity. However, negligence per se is only part of what the jury would take into account; your actions, traffic patterns, and other factors matter as well.
The principle of comparative fault would apply if you were found to share liability for the accident. This means that awarded damages would be reduced by the percentage of liability assigned to you. If you successfully proved losses of $100,000 but were found to be 30 percent liable for the accident, your recovery would be reduced by 30 percent, and you would collect $70,000. If, however, you were found to be more than 50 percent at fault, you would not be eligible to collect any damages whatsoever.
Understand Your Rights
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, dealing with the aftermath can be overwhelming at times. It does not need to be, however, and we can help you decide what your next steps should be. Contact an experienced DuPage County car accident lawyer today to discuss your options in pursuing financial compensation. Call 630-920-8855 to schedule your free initial consultation at Martoccio & Martoccio and get the assistance you need to put your life back together.